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Karzai ousts two Afghan ministers

KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan President Hamid Karzai took a step on Saturday toward reassuring wary Western allies by appointing a new Cabinet that sheds two prominent politicians accused of corruption and retains pro-American leaders in key posts.

After weeks of consultation with Western diplomats, Karzai selected a new political team that seeks to mollify American officials who have pressed him to crack down on corruption and assuage Afghan warlords who backed him during the fraud-tainted presidential election.

Karzai opted to retain the ministers of finance, defense and interior, all of whom will play central roles in building a credible Afghan security force capable of eventually replacing U.S. and other NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The Afghan president sidelined the current minister of mines and minister of religious affairs, both of whom have been accused of political corruption.

Karzai is replacing Muhammad Ibrahim Adel, the minister of mines who is being investigated for allegedly taking more than $20 million in bribes to help a Chinese firm win a lucrative contract, and Sadiq Chakari, the religious affairs minister who has denied allegations that he took part in a kickback scam involving Afghan pilgrims to Mecca.

Perhaps the most controversial minister to be reappointed for second term was Ismail Khan, the conservative former guerrilla leader who has been accused of human rights abuses.